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July | August 2020

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Open Letter to the U.S. Coffee Industry on Racism

Phyllis Johnson, BD Imports

This letter serves as a call to action for industry leaders to come together
and provide resources, tools and funding to fight against racism

Dear U.S. Coffee Professionals,

While many organizations are providing updates on how covid-19 is having a profound impact on the $225 billion U.S. coffee industry, the recent acts of racial injustice galvanizing the world have silenced us. Some have shown solidarity via social media; however, that is not enough. Now is the time when the industry needs to come together and take immediate action. Our credibility is at stake when asking coffee producers to create greater social and equitable programs when we in the United States are silent on blatant injustices here at home.

The pandemic is providing us with new insights as we mourn our losses. Over the past several weeks, we’ve found ourselves facing a new normalcy, quarantined and tuned into the most disturbing and blatant acts of racism. Racism and police brutality towards Black Americans are our reality. We cannot wish it away, nor can we continue to avoid the necessary work required to build a more equitable and just society. We must use our power and resources for positive change. As industry leaders, we have a responsibility not only to our global partners but also employees, partners and consumers, all of whom are participants in building this industry.

As a Black woman, let me unequivocally say that racism is an everyday reality that destroys the lives of Black Americans while others opt to deny or look away. Your silence has consequences. Your silence and inaction enable systemic oppression that destroys Black communities. Now is not the time to ignore and deflect.

Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd are among the most recent to join a long list of individuals who faced senseless and violent deaths, simply because of the color of their skin. We are clearly aware that coffee producers around the world rely heavily on us for economic stability and to be a vocal partner on social and equality issues.

I am proud of our industry’s efforts toward gender equality. Now is our opportunity for building partnerships to combat racism. Black Americans and the world are in desperate need of change that requires your participation. I commit to helping build a coalition of industry stakeholders who will take concrete steps to move our industry and the nation forward. Please consider joining me. I encourage you to donate to local and national organizations that are on the front lines of fighting racism. Please be more aware of your actions and their unintended consequences. Together we will make a difference.

We are the ones bearing witness to wrongful tragedies as we sit quietly calculating our own risk in speaking up.

We are the ones who can be a force against racism.



Phyllis Johnson
President, BD Imports

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